KEEPING AN EYE ON MEXICO on the US BORDER with the NATIONAL GUARD
“NATIONAL GUARD IN CAMOUFLAGE” />
In the past 24 Hours I have driven halfway across Arizona following the US-Mexico Border photographing “the Wall” and looking for the National Guard–reportedly there are 1200 guardsmen working in support of Homeland Security, half of those are watching cameras, the other half are in the field!
I’m climbing out of my Xterra and Chester jumps out to stretch after the long dusty, rocky, climb up Montezuma Pass to this scenic viewpoint where I scan the horizon miles distant deep into Mexico and Southern Arizona. “Can I pet your dog”? I turn and there is the National Guard marching right toward me, “Sure, Chester doesn’t mind,” drawing them in closer. In the parking lot, is a ford 450 with a funny looking gizmo spinning 360 and the windows are blacked out. “Are you with this I ask”? Naw, we’re bivouac up the hill keeping an eye on the border” I sure miss my golden”, he adds stroking Chester who is patiently putting up with the glib soldier. “we’re 4-man teams, 24 hour shifts staying at Ft Huachuca 22 miles away when they aren’t sitting on a rock overlooking the US – Mexico Border. They scan the terrain, looking for UIA’s (undocumented illegal aliens) or smugglers, if they see something, they call the Border Patrol. How good are these guys coming in I ask, “Extremely good”, he retorts three times in succession. “I saw ll guys slipping past 1800 meters beneath me, called in BP and had my binocs on them in a draw, watched them the whole time, maybe they heard us but I directed BP in and they had slipped away, “they are there-I saw them”, nope says BP, “not anymore”. “They are extremely good”, he repeats, “another team saw 38 crossing”, they know we are here “we’re just a deterrent”, he adds. “We’ll be here as long as the politicans want us here.” “They are paying me $5,000 a month to sit on this rock and watch Mexico”, we can stay as long as they want.
The gizmo on the Ford 450 is still spinning and I ask, does it scan the entire valley and point to a distant ridge 5-6 miles away and ask if that ridge is in play. “Absolutely, he says, “it’s like in Preditor”, he says referring to the scifi flick where the alien has heat-seeking thermal signature vision. These guys (Homeland Security) get a lot of training how to read thermal signatures, how to avoid cows, rocks heating up! We (the guard outpost) have a hand-held thermal binco says the guardsman. That thing, (the gizmo on the 450) is 3 and a half times stronger than ours. “Can you see faces I ask” “Kinda, he says but it is the preditor-thing, they are kinda hard to make out.” Anyway, we gotta go. Needed a puppy-fix we gonna get coffee. “Can I checkout your outpost?” Sure the guard says, it’s a public hiking trail. You will see the camouflage.
They’re gone and I stick Chester in the car and head up the rocky, exposed trail up to Coronado Peak a half mile to the summit. At the top, 6575’, there is a bench and shelter and the wind is just whipping anything in its path, down below on a hillside perch are two more guardsmen. I make several photos from a distance and finally I announced myself and a head pops out of the camo. “Mind if I checkout your outpost”, closing the distance between myself and the two dumb struck soldiers. “Well, we’re not really open to the public” one guardman offers. “Do I look like the public?,” I ask as I snap a few frames, the other guardsman busies himself with picking up two M-16 automatic rifles with clips engaged and moving them out of sight in the camo. The other guard man, flustered, turns toward Mexico and looks through his bincos and I get my photo. The wind is still flaying in gusts, under the camo are packs, two cots, a water jug–pretty Spartan I think. “Well, I can see you folks will be more comfortable if I wasn’t here…so I’ll just move along.” “THANK YOU”, both guard men say in unison. They were all perfect gentlemen.